Obamarang

Like a bad penny – or a good boomerang – President Obama keeps turning up in Ohio, transparently campaigning in what the White House hopes will still be a battleground state this time next year. After Tuesday’s Columbus visit demanding more deficit spending, the big guy is making a stop in Cincinnati next week… to demand more deficit spending.

 

As right-wing kooks warned long before Obama’s inauguration, the president has nothing to offer besides unsustainable government dependency. His latest spending bill is another case study in how to be Campaigner-in-Chief: a huge pander to unions and public employees, with just enough temporary tax relief to provide a centrist veneer.

In Ohio and throughout the country, local governments are grappling with the reality that governors can’t continue shoveling money their direction, because Washington can’t keep throwing money at the states. We can barely argue about spending public funds on “guns” versus “butter”: years of butter-budgeting have us buried in debt.

On this key issue, the Obama administration has been an abject failure. Congressman Paul Ryan, a Miami University alum, sets this fact into stark relief in a series of videos discussing his Path to Prosperity budget. Check them out, if you haven’t already – the third was just released this week:

Compare the GOP plan with Obamanomics, which hinges on complete denial of the most avoidable financial crisis mankind has ever seen.

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

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Old-Timey Civility

Though I try to give a wide berth to topics that have been run into the ground, I’ve read some interesting reactions to the recent hubbub about “tone” and “civility” and came across one I wanted to share. Victor Davis Hanson made a good point in a National Review Online article last week:

The hate-filled rhetoric [...] was cruel, lunatic, and illogical — and helped demonize President Bush as some sort of monster rather than the center-right moderate who had pressed for No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, called for religious tolerance, warned against anti-Muslim violence after 9/11, won two bipartisan congressional authorizations for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and implemented the largest medical-relief plan for Africa in U.S. history.

The history of American politics is chock-full of incivility, and Dubya is a prime example of the double standard at play. Obviously leftists get a pass on President Bush, because Progressivism is the vibrant, passionate antithesis to all the terrible things George W. Bush represents. Never mind that he represented those things because of the left’s unwavering belief in its own rhetoric. Today’s pleas for civility are an effort to silence opposition, plain and simple.

VDH’s mention of Bush and the leftist bile he endured reminded me of the only time I sent a letter to the school paper while I was at Miami. It was a couple weeks before the 2004 election, President Bush’s daughters had just visited campus for a campaign event, and the College Republicans were bringing Ann Coulter to Oxford.

Witty Op-Ed Mean Conservative Response
The Miami Student, 10-22-2004, page 13

The Miami Student, 10-22-2004, page 13
(Click to zoom; drag image to scroll)

The Miami Student, 10-26-2004, page 10

The Miami Student, 10-26-2004, page 10
(Click to zoom; drag image to scroll)

Who’s more “civil” – the hatemonger conservative, or the hipster journalism minor? A trivial example, sure. But even though Miami is a relatively conservative campus, The Miami Student‘s editors saw fit to print a sex fantasy attacking a conservative pundit and, for good measure, objectifying the president’s daughters. Imagine if we pulled a few autumn 2004 editorials from the student papers at Berkeley, Columbia, or NYU!

This is one of the great things about freedom of speech. Give a complete jackass ten minutes or a slot on the Opinion page, and he’ll say something closely resembling, “I am a complete jackass.”

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Obscenely Belated Review: Flying Upside Down

I got a few things from griffinhousemusic.com in the mail today and remembered that I haven’t mentioned Griffin enough, since I stopped writing my crappy little music reviews way back when. Although he may not have realized it, with a name like Griffin House the man was always destined for fame and/or notoriety. It’s a spectacular name.

Griffin was leaving Miami around the time I was arriving. One of my best friends there had an older brother, who got him listening to Griffin our freshman year when I’d barely started to realize there was good music other than the few bands I liked from what the top-40 schlock stations play. So it took awhile for the southern rock, or alt-country – whatever they’re selling him as – to grow on me. Griffin knows how to write a catchy tune, and his lyrics strike such a good balance between plain and poetic. Again I’ll link griffinhousemusic.com, with the suggestion that if you like “alternative rock” (or any of the samples playing on his website), you’d be hard pressed to do better than Griff.

To establish that I’m not a clueless fanboy, a complaint about Flying Upside Down, Griffin’s latest album. “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” is a single – I always hate when an artist I like releases a single, and it’s one of the few tracks I skip. I have no place to talk and no expertise in the matter. Further, if it gets people talking and grows Griffin’s audience, all the better. But as a person who cares about lyrics, “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” is… well, kind of silly. If you’re a person who thinks that war is never justified or that America should defend her interests only within her own borders, you’ll adore the lyrics. If not, you may find yourself digging the tune and shaking your head at most of the words.

There you have it, a complaint. As for the rest of the album, tracks 1, 3-6, 12, and 13 are great songs – some upbeat, some not… some about God, some about “the ladies,” all of them genuine Griffin. There are a handful of dupes from Homecoming or previous releases, but it happens. It wasn’t enough to keep me from ordering the disc, despite having bought a FLAC version of the album last year. I’m not sure whether I like Flying Upside Down as much as Homecoming or Lost + Found, but that’s not much of an issue considering that I love all three. Check out the man’s website!!

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So little is different

…and so much has changed. Graduating from college makes you think, naturally, about when you graduated from high school. I would say “four years ago today..” and make some kind of dramatic theme of it, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate. Four years ago today I was still a senior in high school, a couple weeks from graduation and my 18th birthday. This time my birthday is still a couple weeks off (that’s the thing about birthdays), but I’ve graduated already. I’m done. Again.

It’s easier to think, when you have a graduation-sized landmark to start from, about what has changed from one stop to the next. I still feel like essentially the same guy I was then, with the typical differences forced on a person by four years in college. I’m more comfortable talking in front of people, whether they are important or not and even if there are a bunch of them. I practically look forward to getting lost, since it (or so I tell myself) will improve my sense of direction. And other things too… I can do laundry, manage money, blablabla.

Not to undermine the importance of growing up in general, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now. I had an interview yesterday, and on the way out I had one of those moments where I remembered that God is, in fact, working to my benefit. Maybe not in ways I expect or will notice immediately, but I realized that throughout the interview I had felt calm. I had not been calm, forcefully persuading myself to handle the interview well. I had felt, without a doubt, that everything would turn out for the best.

I know, I know, this is the way a Christian should always feel. But I rarely used to and oftentimes still don’t, so it’s exciting to notice that progress does, in fact, occur. How much different is the situation now from when I’d just graduated high school? Then, I knew exactly where I was headed and had no idea how I’d handle it. Now, I’m not so sure of either. Then, I’d invested the last few weeks in confessing my feelings for a girl. Now… pretty much the same. Then, as now, I was leaving something comfortable for something likely to be anything but.

The people and circumstances involved today are completely different, to be certain. With my attitude, though, it would be easy for me to treat them the same. For a few hours I knew the same sick hopelessness that chased me so much after high school. Then — nope! Thank God for progress when we try so halfheartedly. Now, I’m going to vacuum the pool and enjoy my unemployment status.

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traction

good thing i hit both stoplights red on the way out. if not, i’d be passing the oxford patrolman doing 70 instead of braking to fall in behind him as he turns in front of me. the average college student applies simple rules of chemistry to feel better about the world. i’ve never liked alcohol, drunks, or averages; my preferred avoidance method relies on physics. i don’t need to slow down my brain, i just need to go fast enough to outpace it. if my car were, for instance, a honda, i probably would have suffered a nervous breakdown months ago.

ask where i’m going, and i’ll say “nowhere.” you’d assume i were being mysterious, unless you knew better. averaging fifteen over the speed limit i’d get to the closest trail inside hueston woods right on time for the park to close at dusk. i don’t want to go for a walk anyway, although i tend to be in favor of fresh air. at the main entrance i use the empty pavement to slide back southward, visiting the park just long enough for my low traction light to come on. i’m burning gas as if i owned the local BP, it’s a waste of money, i don’t care.

far and away the worst thing about realizing something doesn’t matter is how you continue to feel as though it did. work the curves all you want, and your brain stays right on top of things, guiding your hands and your eyes whether you ask it to or not. give your emotions three feet of slack, and they might not catch up with reality for months.

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Predicament

I’ve got high hopes and low expectations. Somewhere in the nether realms of HR departments, corporate email systems and who knows where else, there are more than 20 copies of my resume in response to which I’ve not yet received rejection letters. This is both a great blessing and a tremendous curse. Surely I’ll get an interview someplace… eventually. And if I can get a foot in the door, I can get the rest of me in, too… maybe. Everything about these unsure frustrations makes the cons stand out darker than the pros.

Suddenly we’re in April again, and it’s unsurprising yet unbelievable that graduation is little more than a month away. Four more weeks of classes, and four years of classes will be over. I’ve been holding off on using this word, but it’s coasting from here. Considering that my finals should not be hard and the usual semester-end projects don’t even seem bad, I should be delighted. I won’t be graduating cum laude but I’m not painfully far from the 3.5 mark, and thanks to my parents I won’t have any debt hanging over my head. But I don’t have a job. Delighted, indeed. Unemployed and on the fast track to sleeping on the ground is what I am.

And this is how it goes inside my head. I want a good job, so I’ve put a lot of time into digging through listings and churning out cover letters. But ever since the first Thanks For Applying But We’re Not Hiring You, Loser postcard came in the mail, negativity has slunk into the foreground. Reason takes a back seat as each promising listing brings a strange mix of excitement and despair. I’ve worked in the University’s Admissions office for several years and in the web design department for several months. I had an internship with the NBC affiliate in Columbus last summer; I worked for the local government back home before that. For years I’ve made work decisions based on how they would help me find a job after school – now that it’s time to find a job, the only thing I can think about is how pathetic my cover letters sound.

In one clean swing, my faith is cut bare from any fronts or b.s.ing about how level-headed and mature I am. When it comes down to it, I might as well be in sixth grade pretending I don’t mind being picked last for kickball. It doesn’t even take a challenge to knock me down; the imminent threat of one is sufficient. I want a plan. I want a “welcome to the team” handshake and a slip of paper that says my life is in order, and I want it within the next 5 business days. I don’t need a ten year outline or a summer home on the coast, but – come on, God! – May is getting too close for comfort. Part of me says wanting an outline of the next chapter is not so bad. Other parts get the feeling it’s not so good, either.

In its place, prudence is (so far as I can tell) well and good. In place of God, it is not. With a faith that would fit between my thumb and forefinger, the risk of idolatry is magnified something fierce. Too often I am confident only so far as I’ve planned ahead and prepared. Although I think being responsible is one of my better qualities, I’m also noticing that its side effects contribute to my worst shortcomings. Trying to be responsible shares borders with trying to be in control, and somehow control – with no lack of irony – has a way of moving the lines around without bothering to notify us. I think it’s good to strive for responsibility. I think it’s frustrating, selfish, and not glorifying to God to strive for control. I have trouble with taking responsibility to the level of faithless control, as recent events have served to display.

This is one of several things driving me crazy lately. Since I’ve been responsible in preparing for my career and searching for a job, I hope to be employed by graduation. Since I’ve been responsible in preparing for my career and searching for a job, I am aggravated that I haven’t gotten so much as an interview yet. The intentions in my heart seem to be taking swipes at each other: sometimes I work hard trusting that God will provide, but sometimes I work hard in order to provide for myself. Uncomfortable as it is, I can’t in good conscience grump around like a child until things work out the way I want them to. And if I’m going to be honest enough to blame something on myself, I might as well take the next step and ask for the faith to improve.

“If I were hungry, I would not mention it to you,
for all the world is mine and everything in it.

I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice;
I don’t need the blood of goats.

What I want instead is your true thanks to God;
I want you to fulfill your vows to the Most High.

Trust me in your times of trouble,
and I will rescue you,
and you will give me glory.”

Psalm 50:12-15 (NLT)

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Research Papers are Pure Euphoria

Not really. As a matter of fact, I completely despise research papers. This should go without saying – if ever there was a time I didn’t need a sarcasm disclaimer, now would be that time. Once in awhile, though, nothing short of “I despise X” is strong enough to describe your feelings for something, you know?

Thank God for outlines. The particular assignment I’m revising right now came with an outline from the professor. I can hardly imagine how much worse it would suck if we’d been told to pick a topic and write about it for twenty pages. Ok, I can imagine: it’d suck a lot. With the outline, writing the rough draft was unpleasant, time consuming, annoying, the usual. Tonight, after a few hours working on revisions, I’m about to settle for a low B on the final copy.

I’m sure I’ve learned some stuff from working on this paper. Most of it I could have picked up on my own thanks to the hugeness that is the Internet, but I would definitely have skipped the painful details were it not for the fact that I’ve got to write about them. My problem with the research paper concept is that we’re expected to write something original and insightful. As if after doing four hours of research I’m ready to contribute to a topic which daily employs hundreds of professional analysts and writers.

And, honestly, citations? Run my paper through your scary cheater-checker. Do your worst. If I used a direct or paraphrased quote, I cited it. If I made a conclusion – using my brain, of all things – about something, and I wrote it down, I’m not going to cite it. Why should I cite something I didn’t get from somewhere else? I can understand the mistrust, but I’m not going to spend another half hour trying to find someone who said something similar just so I can pretend that’s where I got the idea.

That’s not to mention the friggin’ References page. Find me a normal human who knows the correct format for citing a journal versus an online journal article reprint versus a Federal government press release, and I’ll find you a flying pig made out of cookie dough. If I never have to move around periods and source information (no, no, the periodical issue number goes before the publication date for this type of paper) ever again, it will be negative three days too late.

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The state of things

I know you’re all wondering, as the millions of fans of any famous person would, what exactly is going on here. Several entries to the journal in as many days… a lack of updates to the rest of the site – which, by now, is probably less than surprising. Am I turning into a blogger? Am I leaving behind my simple roots as a movie reviewer/CD reviewer/mediocre essay and poetry writer for the people? The answer to the first question would be, “no, not really.” Actually, that would probably be the answer to the second question, too, if I were to bother responding to such a dumb question.

I’ve been trying to find a “job.” Fellow college students, perhaps you, too, have heard of this fabled item. From what I gather, it’s something that takes about 8 hours out of 5 days of every week for the rest of your life (more, if you pick the wrong kind of “job”). In return you get money to buy a new car when you feel like it, and you don’t have to become a penniless wino or continue going to school forever (to be honest, I’m not sure which would be worse).

So, anyway, spring break is next week and graduation is two months from yesterday. If you happen to own a company in Columbus that is looking to pay a new MIS graduate around $30 grand a year for doing stuff, be sure to let me know. Or if you wield control over someone who owns a company in Columbus that is looking to pay $30 grand a year for new-MIS-graduate stuff, well, wield ‘em my direction. I’d especially like to work for The Ohio State University, because they are cool and I could get discounted football tickets, so if you’re a big donor or the president’s niece or something, put in the good word. Thanks.

Until then, the site will continue to be the tangled up ball of goofiness you’ll expect if you’ve read anything here before. Hopefully I will find new and interesting things to say and do. More hopefully, I will stop saying and doing things that are not new or interesting. We’ll see how that goes.

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Glad to be a Miamian…

Just got back from a debate on campus. The topic was Social Security and, of course, whether or not said system ought to be reformed. As is usually the case, I had several things to say and did not make the miniscule effort which standing up to share would have required. The moderator – Dr. Voth, faculty advisor for the University debate team – made it clear that the event was centered on audience involvement. As a result, much of the hour was spent with him looking at us and us looking at him and all the cool kids talking to their friends instead of making any attempt to pay attention. It was the people who contributed who made me happier than usual that I go to Miami.

As far as college campuses go, Miami University is a very conservative place. Which means most of our liberals are either mainstream enough to make reasonable arguments, or outnumbered enough to sit quietly. No tirades about King Chimpy’s plans to fill the wallets of his fatcat friends, and surprisingly neutral references to the Iraq war. But that’s enough of an introduction…

The debate team speakers used stage names in addition to their own names, so I’ll use the stage names. “Tennille” argued in favor of Social Security reform, and “Captain” (charming, I know… one of several cheesy jokes lost on us this evening) argued against. Neither gave an overwhelming presentation or crushing counter-arguments, but the underlying themes were basically what you would expect from each side. Tennille provided facts and predictions indicating that Social Security would run out of money by midway through the century and should be overhauled; Captain countered with assertions that Social Security’s predicted lifespan was increasing all the time and should be left alone.

The problem with both sides of this argument – for me, at least – is that economists are one of few groups I trust less than politicians. Both politicians and economists are motivated by agendas which are at least partially hidden from the general public; economists deal in “facts” where a quarter-percentage error can amount to forecasts being off by hundreds of millions of dollars over the period in question. Assuming some of the economists on both sides have erred in one direction or the other, what could we hear behind and in addition to the numbers?

Tennille spoke first, adding some depth to the notes the President played in his most recent State of the Union address. Mainly he attempted to prove that the current Social Security system will eventually go bankrupt unless reformed. On this front he used the aforementioned approach of providing numbers and economist forecasts. The fact that individuals would have more control over a greater percentage of their income was a statement that he mentioned but did not trumpet as loudly as he could have – this would have gone a long way towards covering his lack of explanation as to how a reformed system would not go the way of the dinosaurs, too.

On pure delivery, Captain (a senior member of the debate team) was a bit more impressive. In terms of content, however, Captain warned us of outcomes including: 1) domestic stock market crash which would create disaster internationally, creating an environment similar to that which the Great Depression caused in Germany, leading to the rise of Hitler 2) weaking of the dollar which would lead to increased foreign investment in the Euro and other alternatives 3) decrease in benefits paid by Social Security.

This could be too much simplicity, but don’t (1) and (2) at least partly cancel each other out? If they invest in other countries based on the prediction that Social Security reform will put America dangerously deeper in debt, how could their markets be crushed by America’s predicted tumble? One argument or the other might be supported, but using both left Captain with a pair of hobbled warnings. Not to metion I was pretty sure Germany fell under the Nazi spell mostly due to getting her tail end handed to her in World War I. As to (3), a temporary decrease would probably be necessary during the transition period. Nothing this big is handed off without a little jostling.

The issue, as I see it, boils down to just that: how much jostling should we accept, and how long might we expect the transition to last? I have an understanding of government and economics that is limited at best, but I can see how giving Social Security-paying workers a variety of index funds to choose from would provide greater returns, thus limiting the amount of money we would expect from the traditional Social Security vault. Not to mention I’d like the government to have as little of my money as possible. Assuming the logic behind the impending funding crisis is sound, this is a switch that should be put into motion now and not later.

Tonight’s debate – and the one currently taking place across the country – makes it clear that many people do not share this assumption. However, none of the anti-reform arguments posed by Captain or audience members convinced me to change my mind. The vocalized anti-reform consensus was that Social Security would not go bankrupt for “a long time,” maintenance fees would eat up the benefits from the proposed reforms, and that the federal government needs all the 12% that it currently takes in order to stay afloat. Basically, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And if it’s in the process of breaking, leave it alone until it actually busts.

The only concession offered (by a guy who also said the problem was too far away for him to care about… a scary truth in a room full of college kids) was that we could fix the current system with very small adjustments – specifically, a slight increase in taxes. Forgive me for being less than excited when fellow students say that we should not worry about problems several decades away, and for being even LESS excited at the mention of tax increases to blow air into an old, stretched out system.

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Minor Locomotive Collision

I’ve decided I’m just not going to cut my hair until Christmas break. When else in my life will I be able to get away with looking like a bum for a couple of months? It’s not like I need to look presentable, since I don’t have a girlfriend and don’t see myself acquiring one before… ever. And it should be at least February by the time I start doing job interviews and stuff. Why make an effort to look important when the fact is, I am anything but?

Nothing screws over a perfectly good week like spending the first half minus the ability to breathe through your nose. I came home one evening thinking, “boy, good thing grandpa sent this tin of tea, that’ll feel perfect on the ol’ throat!” I opened the Lipton Assorted Tea container to find… a hamburger bun bag filled with peanuts. Which come in awful handy for watching football, but I sure was let down at the time.

And there’s something about watching the leaves turn in Oxford for what you realize is the last time that makes you wonder if you’ve accomplished anything worthwhile in the last three years. College students have no business reading Ecclesiastes; what seem like 300 repetitions of “Everything is meaningless” are less than invigorating for someone whose average day involves nine hours of sleep, three hours of trying to stay awake in class, and two cereal-based meals. Then again, reading the Bible too much is not a particular problem for someone so poorly dedicated as myself.

Two solid sources of joy during a stressful stretch:

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop your anger!
Turn from your rage!
Do not envy others –
it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will posess
the land.
[Psalm 37:7-9]

Well there’s a football in the air,
across a leaf-blown field.
Yeah, and there’s your first car on the road,
and the girl you’d steal.

So go on with yourself
If there’s a feeling that there’s something else
Seems like it’s always understood
This time of year.
[Kevin Griffin - "This Time of Year"]

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